Best Comment on Whether to Plant Herbs in Containers or Ground, Solo or with Company


response to a question re whether to plant herbs alone or together, in ground or in containers (obviously I’m trying to make this decision today, and will prob. do a mix of in ground and in planters based on this)…

RE: herbs in containers vs in the ground


I was once told by an old and very experienced horticulturist that ‘God didn’t make pots, and he didn’t make houses, either!’. Which was his way of saying that neither is a natural ‘home’ for plants.

I’ve learned that he was right – up to a point. Herbs WILL grow in pots, as long as you remember that pots are high maintenance.

They need special potting mix, not garden soil which will compact down to rock-hardness very quickly. They need more water, more fertiliser and occasional repotting either to replace dead soil, or to allow the plant to spread a bit more. You see, keeping plants in pots is not unlike keeping a canary in a cage. It doesn’t have the space to spread out as far as it would do in the garden, and that means it will rarely or never get to optimum size, and it will never become truly independent of your care.

Now, my experience is that those multiple-planted pots you see in plant nurseries are very nice for gift-giving, but they are only very temporary arrangements. Plants, like people, like their own space, especially when it’s limited, and they’ll fight for it. One plant will always out-compete another over time – either by its roots choking out the others, or by more successfully accessing the water and nutrients. So it’s something I never recommend.

For a beginner, especially, you need to learn about the individual requirements of all your plants – things like room to move, sunlight, water, fertiliser etc. This is easiest to do if you have one plant per pot.

Another thing is that most beginners are surprised to learn just how BIG most herbs can get! Take a look at this picture (link below), with my rosemary in the background. It has grown considerably since the photo was taken, and gets a regular drastic haircut to keep it to manageable size in my very small garden. My basils get almost as big.

Plants have an effective way of telling you when they’re not happy. They sulk, then they die, just to spite you! Watch them, and listen to them as individuals. One might be perfectly happy in a pot (for a while), while another will hate it. One might be very comfortable on your back porch, while another might really yearn to be out in the garden doing its thing.

You’ve started off wisely by giving them large pots. The babies might look a little lost at first, but you’ll be rewarded in the end by much happier plants. Don’t force friendships between them, however – keep each plant in its own separate housing arrangements! The plant world is a very competitive one, and they fight to the death!


Here is a link that might be useful: rosemary